ISLAMABAD: Former ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), on Tuesday received a setback after the federal government indicated that it would not have the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman appointed from an opposition party.
Still, the PML-N’s Parliamentary Party has approved candidature of party president Shehbaz Sharif for the slot of PAC chairman and the PML-N has once again reached out to the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) to seek its support for Shehbaz’s elevation to the slot.
The matter was discussed in detail during a meeting of the PML-N’s Parliamentary Party at the Parliament House on the sidelines of the National Assembly session. Chaired by Shehbaz, the PML-N Members National Assembly (MNAs) and senators attended the huddle.
According to the party sources, the PML-N’s senior leadership has been actively lobbying for Shehbaz’s elevation as the PAC chairman and the party has also reached out to the PPP leadership to seek the support of Asif Ali Zardari and his aides for Shehbaz.
On Tuesday, the PML-N Chairman Raja Zafarul Haq, Senator Chaudhry Tanvir and other N-Leaguers met senior PPP leader Khursheed Shah in this regard. Haq is at the forefront of lobbying for Shehbaz for his elevation to the coveted position.
A PML-N source denied that the recent contacts between the PML-N and the PPP aimed at forging an electoral alliance for the by-elections scheduled for October 14.
“Assuming that the PML-N and the PPP would join hands to contest by-elections is a far cry. Both the parties have separate electoral vote bank concentrated in separate provinces. Our major focus right now is securing the chairmanship of the PAC and a few other standing committees of NA,” he said.
On Tuesday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told a select group of journalists in the lobby of Parliament House that the government intends to have the PAC chief elevated from treasury benches instead of accommodating the opposition.
This is said to have set alarm bells ringing in the PML-N camp which immediately sprang into action to take stock of the matter. Sources in the PML-N said the matter was lately discussed between senior lawmakers from the PML-N and the government and Speaker NA Asad Qaiser facilitated these contacts.
Reportedly, the government side conveyed to the N-League that Prime Minister Imran Khan was in no mood to accept candidature of Shehbaz for the PAC chief slot.
“The PM is of the view that a person like Shehbaz who is facing serious corruption inquiries by the National Accountability Bureau lacks merit or moral justification to head a prestigious accountability body of parliament,” said a former federal minister from the PML-N, requesting anonymity.
He said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) senior leadership believes that Shehbaz’s appointment as chairman PAC would allow him to ‘manoeuvre’ against the government and create problems for the federal government by summoning the senior officials in PAC meetings on one pretext or another.
Regarded as one of the most prestigious and powerful parliamentary bodies, the PAC is mandated to summon officials of federal government departments and seek explanation from them in connection with alleged misappropriation of funds in their respective departments.
The PAC’s related recommendations against any senior government officials, found involved in foul play related to public funds, are hard for the government to ignore.
Reportedly, the PML-N leadership has also offered the government to accommodate any other PML-N MNA other than Shehbaz as the PAC chairman. Speaking to the media outside the Parliament House on Tuesday, Shehbaz neither confirmed nor denied when asked if he was being elevated as PAC chairman.
“Traditionally, leader of the opposition in NA is handed the portfolio of PAC chairman. However, if this government takes a U-turn on the matter, I can’t say. But if you want me to be the chairman, then I’ll be the one,” Shehbaz told a journalist in a lighter vein.
A PML-N statement issued after it Parliamentary Party meeting said the meeting finalised names for the chairmanship of the PAC and relevant NA standing committees. However, the statement did not mention any names in this regard.